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rows of multi colored tulips rows of multi colored tulips

Field Cut Flowers and Bulbs

Close up picture of a pink and orange tulip
Image by 4924546 from Pixabay

Importance of Field Cut Flowers and Bulbs to Oregon

Greenhouse and Nursery is the number one agricultural commodity in the state of Oregon. Cut flowers and bulbs are part of that industry. There are about 300 farms growing flowers and bulbs in the state. In 2019, the value of cut and potted flowers and bedding plants was 145 million dollars. Oregon is 10th in the country in flower production.1

History of Field Cut Flowers and Bulbs

The Netherlands is the number one exporter of flowers in the world, and that is where cut flower production got its start. In the 16 and 1700s, greenhouses were created. They made it so that flowers could be grown year-round, not just in spring and summer. European settlers brought flower production to North America, along with greenhouses.2

Old picture of florists and children in a field of flowers in Holland in 1885.
Image by Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr

As technology advanced and brought inventions like air conditioning and airplanes, the cut flower industry was able to grow and move into different areas.

Field Cut Flower and Bulb Varieties

Oregon grows many different varieties and types of cut flowers and bulbs. Many of them are popular and even have festivals to celebrate their blooms.
light pink and white peonies
Image by Nicole from Pixabay


Peony plants are a bushy flowering plant, somewhat like a shrub. They produce large blooms of all colors except for blue. Peony plants can live for more than 100 years. They are propagated by dividing their roots and replanting. Peonies will die back or lose their leaves in the fall but will come back and bloom each spring.

orange and yellow tulips
Image by Marjon Besteman from Pixabay


Tulips are a spring-blooming flower that grow from bulbs. They have boldly colored petals that are symmetrical around the stem. Growing a tulip from a seed can take 5 to 8 years before flowering. Instead, they are normally propagated by bulbs. Tulips have been grown in the United States since at least the mid-1800s. 

close up of a purple and white iris
Image by Giovanni Edoardo Nogaro from Pixabay


Iris are perennial plants that bloom in March and April. There are around 300 different species of iris. The species are many different colors and styles. Oregon grown irises have won national and international awards. Irises grow from rhizomes or bulbs and have petals that open out like a fan. 

close up of a light pink azalea
Image by Katja Schulz on Flickr

Florist Azaleas

Oregon is the number one producer in the United States of potted florist azaleas. In 2019, the state produced 59% of all the ones grown in the country. Azaleas are a flowering shrub that blooms in the spring. They are mostly red, pink, and purple. In 2011, Oregon sold more than 13.5 million dollars worth of azaleas.

Life Cycle of a Field Cut Flower and Bulb Varieties

Some cut flowers are grown from seed, while others are grown from bulbs. This section will cover production using bulbs, specifically tulips. 

Bulbs are planted in the early fall.These bulbs have no roots when they are planted but will begin to grow roots in November. December and January are the rest period. They need a few weeks of cold weather to prepare to flower. February through March are the growing period for the bulbs. Leaves and flowers start to push out of the bulb. Tulips bloom in April and May. After bloom is over, the foliage will die and wither. New bulbs will grow out of the original bulb and get ready to grow more flowers the next year.6 The new bulbs can be dug up to be sold, which is what many flower farmers in Oregon do.


people harvesting yellow tulips by hand
Image by Martha T on Flickr

Field Cut Flower Harvest

Flower farmers plant their flowers in greenhouses or outside, depending on the type of flower. When it comes time to harvest, the flowers are cut by hand. The flowers are put into buckets of water once they are cut. They are kept in cold storage until they are sold.

Pests and Diseases

Flowers are delicate and can be damaged by many different pests and diseases. Damage to the flowers and leaves can make them unable to be sold.
close up of a Japanese beetle
Image by Richard Malo from Pixabay

Japanese Beetle

Japanese beetles are an invasive species that Oregon works very hard to keep out of the state. The adult beetles eat the leaves of plants. Without leaves, plants can’t photosynthesize. The young grubs of Japanese beetles can eat the roots of plants, which keeps them from getting the water and nutrients they need to grow. When the beetles are found, they are eradicated.7.

picture of botrytis blight on flowers
Image by Scot Nelson on Flickr


Botrytis is sometimes called gray mold. It is a fungus that infects flowers at all stages of growth. When it infects the petals, it causes tan spots that become fuzzy and gray. The flower petals can stick together and be slimy. The fungus can also get on the leaves and stems, causing stems to wilt.8

close up picture of a cutworm caterpillar
Image by Angela Yuriko Smith from Pixabay

Cutworms and Caterpillars

Cutworms and other caterpillars feed on plants at ground level. They can eat through plant stems completely. They feed in groups and can quickly damage many flower stems. Cutworms have also been known to feed on leaves and roots.9

close up of leaves affected by leaf and flower gall
Photo part of OSU Extension Plant Pathology Slide Set

Leaf and Flower Gall

Leaf and flower gall is caused by a fungus that spends the winter as spores on plants. It is primarily a problem in azaleas. It infects the plant in the spring as buds start to open. Leaves can become thick and covered in spores. Plants with this disease can produce fewer or smaller flowers. Infected branches can die.10

Uses for Field Cut Flowers and Bulbs

Cut flowers and bulbs have several uses. Many gardeners enjoy growing bulbs in their yards and gardens. Cut flowers are sent as gifts, used for home decorating, and displayed at events. Weddings and funerals are common times that cut flowers are used. Florists arrange and sell cut flowers.
Picture of two vases on a window sill with flowers in them
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Casual Decorations and Gifts

picture of someone holding a wedding bouquet
Image by design. meliora from Pixabay
Ceremonies and Special Occasions

Picture of flowers and bushes in an enclosed garden
Image by Nathan Siemers on Flickr
Yards and Gardening

Fun Facts about Field Cut Flowers and Bulbs!

  • Tulip bulbs were more valuable than gold in Holland in the 1600s11
  • Roses are related to apples, raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, and almonds
  • An extract from the iris, called Orris Root, is used as an additive to perfumes12
  • There are more than 6,500 varieties of peonies13

Vocabulary Terms

Flowers that are purchased and planted in bulk to add color to flower beds.

To do away with completely; wipe out.

A person or company who sells goods to other countries.

The leaves on a plant.

A building used to grow plants all year long. A greenhouse usually has a glass roof and walls.

 A plant that lives longer than two years.

Using sunlight to change water and carbon dioxide into food for itself.

To multiply from parent stock.

An underground horizontal stem that bears shoots along its upper surface.

A tiny reproductive body made up of one or more cells, produced by certain animals and plants.

Having a form, structure, or parts that are equal and have matching distribution on each side of a central line or position.


Related Resources and Sources

        1Terry, Lynne, “Oregon ranks 10th in flower production,” Oregon Live, March 2019, https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2009/05/oregon_ranks_10th_in_flower_pr.html.
        2Southern University Agricultural Research Center, “Cut Flowers,” Accessed December 2021, https://www.suagcenter.com/assets/suag/Commercial_Cut_Flower_Workshop/Cut-Flowers-Workshop1.pdf.
        3Geerts, Sheryl and Viveka Neveln, “6 Fascinating Facts About Peonies That Will Make You Love Their Gorgeous Flowers Even More,” Better Homes & Gardens, https://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/peony-facts/.
        4Oregon Department of Agriculture, “Floriculture A Big Part Of Oregon’s Nursery Industry,” May 31, 2011, https://www.perishablenews.com/floral/floriculture-a-big-part-of-oregons-nursery-industry/.
        5Tulips.com, “The Life of A Tulip Bulb,” Accessed January 2022, https://www.tulips.com/bulbs_life_of.
        6Rotteveel, Ben, “The Life Cycle of Your Flower Bulbs,” DutchGrown, November 2018, https://www.dutchgrown.com/blogs/planting-tips/flower-bulbs-underground-winter.
        7Oregon Department of Agriculture, “Japanese Beetle: Threat and Opportunity in Oregon,” February 2017, https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/IPPM/JBThreatAndOpportunity.pdf.
        8Smith, Tina and Angela Madeiras, “Botrytis Blight of Cut Flowers,” UMass, June 2019, https://ag.umass.edu/greenhouse-floriculture/fact-sheets/botrytis-blight-of-cut-flowers.
        9Green, J., A. Dreves, B. McDonald, and E. Peachey, “Winter Cutworm: A New Pest Threat in Oregon,” February 2016, https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/em9139.pdf.
        10Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks, “Azalea (Rhododendron spp.)-Leaf and Flower Gall,” Accessed January 2022, https://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/host-disease/azalea-rhododendron-spp-leaf-flower-gall.
        11Gardening Channel, “25 Fun Facts About Flowers,” Accessed January 2022, https://www.gardeningchannel.com/25-fun-facts-about-flowers/.
        12Pega, Bonnie, “BONNIE’S GARDEN – Six Fun Facts About Iris,” The Great Big Greenhouse, Accessed January 2022, https://greatbiggreenhouse.com/blog/six-fun-facts-about-iris/.